Job Title: Assistant Professor
Type of Company: Higher Education and patient care.
Education: BA, Biology MS, Biology Ph.D., Immunology
Previous Experience: I got six years' post-doctoral experience at a government and academic facility learning how to do independent research.
Job Tasks: My job entails researching how people with parasitic infections are able to develop immunity. A billion people worldwide are infected with worms that can stunt their growth, cause cognitive deficiencies and leave them with a generalized sense of malaise. Most of my fieldwork is in Kenya, where I collaborate with Kenyan scientists. We study a population that has a high rate of infection with a certain parasite, taking blood samples from volunteers and testing their immune responses. We then try to model what we see at our laboratory in the US. We extract cells from human tissue, most of it from tonsillectomies, in our experiments. But we also have to culture the parasite and keep it alive for further use. Overall, we aim to develop an effective vaccine that will help the 800 million people who are at risk for infection.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are the ability to dictate my own directions in research and working with graduate and medical students. The worst is trying over and over to get grant funding for a disease that Americans are not too concerned about!
1. Do well in college to be able to get into a graduate school with a great program and lots of money. Take appropriate courses early on, once you define your interest.
2. Do internships or obtain laboratory experience while in college. Bug the professors to let you come to their labs.
3. Go for an MD/Ph.D degree rather than just a Ph.D. MD's make more money and have the flexibility to see patients if grant funding is not going well.
4. Do some field work in a developing country via the Peace Corps or something like it. It's not for everyone!
Additional Thoughts: The most important qualities for a scientist to have are creativity, the ability to manage people and money, and a thick skin. Scientists constantly are rejected and criticized by their peers on papers, grants, etc. Get over it!
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